Abstract: Era of the Living Dead: Memory, Sacrifice and the "Royal" Tombs at Umm el-Marra, Syria


Excavations at Tell Umm el-Marra in western Syria have exposed a large funerary complex of rich tombs associated with local rulers in the Early Bronze Age period of Syria’s first urban civilization, ca. 2500-2100 BC.   The skeletons and artifacts found in the tombs allow us to reconstruct funerary practices and beliefs in unprecedented detail, while structures with equids and human infants provide unique evidence of sacrificial rituals that accompanied the burial of the illustrious dead.   In the Middle Bronze Age, ca. 1900-1600 BC, new ritual structures and sacrificial activities took place atop the old royal necropolis, raising issues of social memory,  the continuity of ritual, and the role of human sacrifice.  This talk will discuss this extraordinary sequence of ritual behaviors and explore how they shed light on political and religious changes in the history of Syria’s first urban civilization.

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